Lovecraft Revisionism in “The Dream Quest of Velitt Boe” by Kij Johnson.

It will come as no surprise that I am not the world’s biggest Lovecraft fan. The flagrant racism and xenophobia that fuels and flavors his work is a big turn-off. And the fact that I am of the demographic that HPL saved some of his more hateful descriptions doesn’t help matters. (Sorry, but I can’t overlook the doggrell “On the Creation of Niggers,” to bask in his supposed genius, as some purists insist. In fact, such a suggestion–that I overlook HPL’s racial hatred–are borderline abusive and is a perfect example of racist gaslighting).

However, I am a fan of the recent flood of revisionist Lovecrafian mythos. They make me a Lovecraft fan-by-proxy. I gobbled up Matt Ruff’s Lovecraft Country and Victor Lavalle’s The Ballad of Black Tom with eagerness. Kij Johnson’s entry into Lovecraftiana examines gender issues where Ruff and Lavalle examined racial ones.

vellittboe

Velitt Boe is a professor at a women’s college and former explorer of the Dream Lands. When one of her students has left the college in the thrall of a man of the Waking world, Boe tasks herself in bringing the student back. The student’s disappearance has cataclysmic implications, as well as  being a more mundane, university-level scandal.  The novella follows Boe as she travels the perilous Dream Lands as a middle-aged woman.

But the plot of the novella really isn’t the point, in my opinion. It’s a meandering travelogue where Johnson gets to explore Lovecraft’s wonder-filled creation. Johnson is a graceful stylist, and chooses her words with precision. Though there are moments of terror, they are still rendered in a painterly way. As a result, she imbues a bizarre beauty to the various nightmare creatures. The gugs, gaunts, and ghouls aren’t just chattering chaotic evil. They have a hinted hierarchal structure and an alien moral code. In this way, rather than outright polemics, Johnson undermines the incipient xenophobia that’s a feature of Lovecraft’s fiction.

Johnson’s novella has done the nigh-impossible: it makes me interested in reading the source text!

Necronomicon 2017 in pictures

I am exhausted from my recent trip to Providence, RI. In lieu of a write up, I’ll share some annotated pictures from the convention.

Necroreading
I read from THE NECTAR OF NIGHTMARES.  Photo by John Glover
Looming Low Pic
Holding the limited edition of the hardback of LOOMING LOW
Outer Dark
Outer Dark Podcast panel: Scott Nicolay, me, Sonya Taafe, Anya Martin, Peter Straub, Stephen Graham Jones, Scott Jones.
Weird
WALK ON THE WEIRD SIDE. (Featuring my story “Eidolon Realty, LLC.”)
An elder one gooses me
Goosed by an Elder One.

 

My schedule at #NecronomiConPVD

Despite the real-life horror going on in the country, I will be leaving for Providence tomorrow. My schedule is below.

Friday – 10:30-11:45am
AUTHOR READINGS – L’Apogee, Biltmore 17th Floor
Victoria Dalpe, Paul Di Filippo, Craig L. Gidney, Catherine Grant

Sunday – 9-10:15am

FABULISM IN CONTEMPORARY WEIRD FICTION – Garden Room, Biltmore 2nd Floor
Before the short story, the novel, or even the play- there was the fable and fabulism has been a constant thread throughout the history of horror and weird fiction and, in recent years, many writers have been more openly showcasing fabulism in their work. This panel seeks to explore the phenomenon, it’s history, and it’s current use with several contemporary writers who have, themselves, embraced fabulism as a driving factor in their own work.
Panelists: Craig Gidney, J.T. Glover, Kij Johnson, Nnedi Okorafor, Simon Strantzas (Moderator), Peter Straub

Sunday – 10:30-11:45am

THE DREADED SURREAL: Landscapes in Weird Fiction – Newport-Washington, Omni 3rd Floor
External landscapes have been something of a dark playground for weird fiction writers and artists throughout the history of the genre. Many bizarre and unsettling places have served as the settings for countless memorable works. Which of these fictional places have been most memorable in the minds of artists and writers working in horror, weird fiction, and science fiction today? What strange, terrifying places may yet be created? And how might they steer the genre in terms of narrative structure and content?
Panelists: Christopher Burke, Craig Gidney, Mike Griffin, Eric Schaller (Moderator)